Shazam! Fury of the Gods

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 5/23/23;
Warner;
Action;
Box Office $57.64 million;
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray, $39.98 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of action and violence, and language.
Stars Zachary Levi, Asher Angel, Jack Dylan Grazer, Adam Brody, Rachel Zegler, Grace Caroline Currey, Ross Butler, Ian Chen, D.J. Cotrona, Jovan Armand, Meagan Good, Faithe Herman, Lucy Liu, Djimon Hounsou, Helen Mirren, Marta Millans, Cooper Andrews.

If ever there were a poster child for a studio undercutting its own IP, it’s Shazam! Fury of the Gods.

It’s not that it’s a bad film — it’s fun and highly entertaining. But in the leadup to its theatrical release, the newly constituted Warner Bros. Discovery announced plans to reboot the entirety of the DC Comics film franchise — of which the sequel to 2019’s well-regarded Shazam! was a part. On top of that, the character’s historic comic book arch-nemesis, Black Adam, got his own solo movie just a few months earlier, amid widespread rumors that its star, Dwayne Johnson, was so adamant about downplaying any connection to Shazam that he nixed any potential crossover cameos.

Such PR negativity so dampened enthusiasm for any remaining DC sequels still tied to the old continuity that the studio’s marketers decided to spoil one of the film’s major cameos in a TV spot in a desperate attempt to reignite fan interest. It didn’t work, with Fury of the Gods generating about one-third the box office of its predecessor four years earlier.

The pandemic probably didn’t help matters either; taking two years off the timeline of when a potential sequel could come out doesn’t do any favors to maintaining audiences’ familiarity with a relatively niche character in the DC Comics canon.

The shame of it is, this is a decent, if imperfect, sequel to one of the more irreverent superhero properties to hit the big screen in a while.

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Picking up a couple years after where the previous film left off, Shazam (Zachary Levi), the adult superhero form of Billy Batson (Asher Angel), is joined by his family of foster brothers and sisters in a full-fledged superhero team of kids who turn into adults imbued with the powers of the mythological gods when they say the word “Shazam.” And they are apparently horrible at it, being lambasted in the media for causing more harm than they try to prevent. On top of that, Billy’s best friend Freddy (Jack Dylan Grazer) is having too much fun in his superhero form (Adam Brody), often going on solo adventures to the chagrin of Billy.

In the midst of the Shazam Family trying to find its balance, a trio of sisters visits Earth from the Realm of the Gods in order to reclaim the Shazam powers, which they say were stolen from them by the Wizard (Djimon Hounsou) who gave Billy his powers in the first film. The Daughters of Atlas (Helen Mirren, Lucy Liu, Rachel Zegler) also seek the means to restore life to their own realm through a golden apple hidden somewhere in the Rock of Eternity, which happens to be the Shazam Family’s headquarters.

To force Shazam’s cooperation, the Daughters kidnap Freddy and remove his powers, having retrieved the magical staff that empowered the team in the first film. But they imprison Freddy in the same cell as the Wizard, and the interplay between Grazer and Hounsou as the pair plot their escape is among the film’s best material.

The sisters also encase Shazam’s home city, Philadelphia, in an impenetrable magic dome, which at least explains why other DC heroes aren’t getting involved in the fight. One downside to storytelling in a shared universe is that if the villain’s plot registers on a global scale, it raises the question of why the other established heroes of the franchise aren’t all showing up to try to stop it as well (a prime example of this is Marvel’s Eternals, in which the potential destruction of the Earth apparently drew the curiosity of zero Avengers).

To save Freddy, free the city and prevent the Daughters’ from unleashing monsters upon the Earth, Billy must figure out how to retrieve the staff and return the sisters to their realm.

Levi continues to have all the fun as a teenager inhabiting a middle-aged adult’s body, though he seems to be even more immature as Shazam than the teenage Billy, who is nearing 18 and demonstrates more self-awareness than his adult self. The film at least has other characters call out how Shazam’s shtick is getting old, pointing out that the “S” in his name is supposed to represent Solomon’s wisdom — a trait he has been lacking thus far.

Also a bit weird is that the film has retained all the adult/kid cast from the first film, with the exception that Grace Caroline Currey is now playing the adult hero version of Mary in addition to her younger form. The filmmakers cite the character now being over 18 as the reason for the change, as Michelle Borth played the older form of Mary in the previous film. It’s a bit weird visually just compared with all the other characters changing actors in their superhero forms (especially considering they reshot a flashback to the first film, but used Currey instead of Borth, and this film’s updated costume designs). As the film establishes that both Billy and Freddy are about to turn 18, this logic would have Angel and Grazer playing their own Shazam versions in any future installments instead of Levi and Brody, which doesn’t seem a likely direction for the filmmakers to go in (not that any more sequels are likely forthcoming given this film’s dire box office pronouncements).

However, the film’s best running gag, at least for anyone with an appreciation for comic book history, involves the Shazam Family trying to figure out superhero names, since they can’t just introduce themselves as “Shazam” without turning their powers on and off. That’s because their superhero names in the comics were variations of Billy’s original alter ego — Captain Marvel, a moniker now controlled by DC’s rival, Marvel Comics, thanks to a complicated legal history.

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The film looks great in 4K and on Blu-ray, filled with some dazzling visual effects and an amazing array of mythological creatures with designs that draw inspiration from Ray Harryhausen.

The disc and digital editions of the film offer a number of good bonus materials. In the 4K combo pack, all the extras are on the regular Blu-ray, not the 4K disc.

Both the Blu-ray and 4K disc do offer an informative commentary track with director David F. Sandberg, who discusses how the production sidestepped a number of challenges in the visual effects and editing of the film.

Sandberg refers to a lot of material cut out of the film, many of which are included among the deleted, alternate and extended scenes, 29 of them totaling 31 minutes.

The Blu-ray also includes more than an hour of making-of featurettes.

The primary behind-the-scenes video is the 25-minute “Shazam! Let’s Make a Sequel,” which offers a nice overview of the production in general. The four-minute “The Zac Effect” focuses on the film’s star and his impact on the film, while the five-minute “Shazamily Reunion” shines a light on the other members of Team Shazam, and the eight-minute “Sisterhood of Villains” details the creation and portrayal of the Daughters of Atlas. “The Rock of Eternity: Decked Out” is a nearly six-minute featurette about how the Shazam Family have decorated their lair. The five-minute “Mythology of Shazam! Fury of the Gods” chronicles the real Greek myths that inspired much of the film’s premise.

Rounding out the extras is “Shazam! Scene Deconstruction,” a 10-minute video about the making of five action sequences.

 

‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ Heading Home on Disc Dec. 7, Digital Dec. 15

Disney-owned 20th Century Studios’ animated film Ron’s Gone Wrong will be released on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Dec. 7, followed by a digital sellthrough release Dec. 15.

Things go awry when Barney (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer), a socially awkward middle schooler, receives a malfunctioning, digitally connected device called a B*Bot that’s supposed to be his “best friend out of the box,” which he calls Ron (Zach Galifianakis). Unwilling to allow Ron to be fixed to eliminate its uniqueness, Barney runs away with it, embarking on crazy adventures and discovering self-acceptance and courage along the way.

The cast also includes Olivia Colman, Ed Helms, Justice Smith, Rob Delaney, Kylie Cantrall, Marcus Scribner, Ricardo Hurtado and Thomas Barbusca.

The film earned $21.1 million at the domestic box office.

Extras include a music video for “Sunshine” by Liam Payne, and the featurettes “A Boy and His B*Bot: When Jack Met Zach, a discussion between Galifianakis and Grazer, and “Making Ron Right,” a look behind the scenes.

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Luca

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Disney;
Animated;
$29.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray, $43.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘PG’ for rude humor, language, some thematic elements and brief violence.
Voices of Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Marco Barricelli, Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan, Sacha Baron Cohen.

With Luca, Pixar delivers a wonderfully realized rumination about growing up, exploring the joys of the world and finding friends who also might be just a little bit different.

The film follows the tradition of earlier Disney tales such as Splash and The Little Mermaid, but with a distinctly Italian flair. Luca (Jacob Tremblay) is a young sea monster who yearns to learn about the wider world, but is limited to a life shepherding goatfish under the sea. One day, while looking through a number of human objects that fell from a boat, he encounters Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), an orphaned sea monster who teaches Luca that when they go onto land and dry out, their bodies become human.

They have fun with their misadventures on the lonely island where Alberto lives, dreaming of one day obtaining a Vespa so they can travel the world. But when Luca’s parents take notice of his time on land, they threaten to send him to live with his uncle in the ocean deep. So, Alberto convinces Luca to run away to the sleepy Italian fishing village nearby to hide out. There, they meet Giulia (Emma Berman), who recruits them to form a team for an upcoming race, hoping to defeat the bully Ercole.

But they also learn there is a bounty for killing sea monsters, which they are revealed to be whenever they get wet. In addition, Luca’s parents come ashore themselves to search him out, leading to a funny bit in which they assume every boy they encounter could be Luca because they don’t know what he looks like as a human.

Director Enrico Casarosa based much of the film on his boyhood in Genoa, Italy, using the concept of the sea monster as a metaphor for not quite fitting in.

The film is beautifully animated in typical Pixar fashion, and so evocative of its oceanside environment that viewers can virtually feel the sun on their face and the water at their feet.

The Blu-ray includes a compilations of storyboards for about 30 minutes of deleted sequences, included a couple of alternate openings. There are also three making-of featurettes running about 35 minutes total.

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‘Don’t Tell a Soul’ Hitting Blu-ray and DVD March 16 From Lionsgate

Don’t Tell a Soul arrives on DVD and Blu-ray (plus digital) March 16 from Lionsgate.

It is currently available on demand and on digital.

The film, which premiered at the Deauville Film Festival in September 2020 and was selected for the Tribeca Film Festival, stars Rainn Wilson (“The Office”), Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk, TV’s “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” The Children Act), Jack Dylan Grazer (ItIt Chapter Two, Shazam!) and Mena Suvari (TV’s “American Woman,” “American Horror Story,” American Pie franchise).

In the dramatic thriller, while stealing money to help their sick mother (Suvari), teen brothers Matt and Joey (Whitehead and Grazer) are surprised by Hamby (Wilson), a security officer who gives chase and is then trapped in a well. Over the next few days, Joey and Hamby forge an uneasy relationship. Hamby tells Joey he’ll keep quiet if Joey sets him free. But Hamby holds another secret, one that will threaten Joey and his family, in this twist-filled, cat-and-mouse thriller.

Extras include the making-of featurette “Flesh & Blood: Creating Don’t Tell a Soul.”

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Thriller ‘Don’t Tell a Soul’ Due in Theaters and on Digital Jan. 15 From Lionsgate

The thriller Don’t Tell a Soul will come out in theaters, on digital and on demand Jan. 15 from Lionsgate and Saban Films.

In the film, while stealing money to help their sick mother (Mena Suvari), teen brothers Matt and Joey (Fionn Whitehead and Jack Dylan Grazer) are surprised by Hamby (Rainn Wilson), a security officer who gives chase and is then trapped in a well.

Over the next few days, Joey and Hamby forge an uneasy relationship. Hamby tells Joey he’ll keep quiet if Joey sets him free. But Hamby holds another secret, one that will threaten Joey and his family, in this twist-filled, cat-and-mouse thriller.

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